Imperial Logistics has a wealth of experience and abilities that extend beyond the borders of South Africa and deep into the African continent. It provides supply chain integration, warehousing and distribution, freight and transportation and managed logistics through services and solutions that are rich in capability, efficient and reliable. Imperial is focused on bringing high levels of supply chain excellence to the continent through a firm commitment to its people, technology and solutions.
“Imperial is an outsourcing organisation — we have our business because other companies appoint us to perform very specific processes on their behalf,” says Cobus Rossouw, chief business development officer at Imperial Logistics. “If you go back to our roots, you will see an organisation that provides transport to those who prefer not to own trucks and employ their own drivers. This remains a big part of our business today, but we now run end-to-end value chains and business systems across complex sectors such as pharmaceuticals and consumer products.”
Imperial has established a superb reputation in supply chain excellence across South Africa and Africa. This is seen in the number of organisations that have made a deliberate choice to partner with the business and entrust their products to the Imperial stable. Today, Imperial is the only company that can take products from manufacturing to the point of purchase in both a Southern African and pan-African context.
“Our relationships with our clients and the work we have done across the continent have stood us in good stead in terms of our entry into Africa,” says Rossouw. “We’ve taken what we do well here in South Africa — growing through acquisition to aid capabilities — and integrated that more and more into the world of supply chain operations. In the African context, given the complexities, the risks and the different challenges, we think it is increasingly important to offer an end-to-end route to [the] market.”
Instead of just selling transport and warehousing or providing marketing and sales support, Imperial is able to take on all roles and deliver on all fronts. The business takes the product where it needs to go, sells it, and ensures that the right markets know that the product is available.
“We also sell the product for our clients, technically purchasing it from them and then selling it on,” says Rossouw. “We partner with the brand owners and perform the sales service on their behalf. We have representatives and merchandisers on the ground in many African countries that take the product into the different facets of that market. This points to our third value proposition as a business — we also help to build brands.”
In many cases, Imperial’s role supports the development of a brand identity and the growth of brand loyalty within specific markets. As organisations expand into Africa, they need to find a way of educating consumers as to what their products are, and letting them know that they are available. This is where Imperial’s expertise is invaluable.
“You can’t expect people to buy something if they don’t know about it,” says Rossouw. “A great example is our route to market for a well-known toothpaste brand in Mozambique. This is the leading toothpaste in that market and we sell it into the informal market and make sure that the product gets [to] where it needs to go. The market is competitive, and the same business had a more expensive product that it wanted to promote there. We then made sure that the consumers had a chance to try out the more expensive product, allowed them to experience value for themselves and, from there, we supported its development into its niche in the sector.”
This high level of brand activation is one of the premier services provided by Imperial and ensures that the value chain is completed from end to end. People are willing to pay more if they know that they are getting the right level of quality and Imperial brings this information to the consumers, shows them what the product is about, and creates demand.
“This is even more relevant on the rest of the continent, where you have to introduce new brands to new consumers,” says Rossouw. “You need to build the brand, you have to create trust and you have to create availability. So this is where our business has evolved. We still have a strong bias on logistics and we are a big fleet owner. We manage other people’s fleets and we have a million square metres of warehousing in South Africa and about half a million outside South Africa on the continent.”
Imperial Logistics has extensive capabilities in the supply chain environment and this is being expanded into the rest of Africa. The company has acquired businesses in Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana, with a focus on the pharmaceutical environment alongside broader logistics capabilities.
“Our focus is on creating both access and awareness, that push and pull, as they’re equally important in terms of competing for that share of pocket,” says Rossouw. “It is no good making a product available when there is no understanding of the value that it offers.
This is where our complete value chain comes into its own, allowing our principals to compete efficiently in these markets.”
The Imperial business model has, at its core, the development of partnerships with key stakeholders and in creating pathways to consumers that educate and inspire.
“We are the partners of brand owners and so our right of existence in Africa is about taking those brands into Africa and replacing lots of fragmented service offerings, either in a region or between the functions that others provide, with a solution that is stitched together so that it becomes a route to market,” says Rossouw. “We’re not just providing an outsourced service; we’re enabling our client organisations to do things differently. A lot of supply chain and logistics is actually about how you can do things better together.
“The way we work is about creating partnerships and using technology to transform existing solutions into ones that are more dynamic and adaptable,” concludes Rossouw. “Technology has a real impact on human life and we’re using it to create really exciting solutions in both South Africa and across the African continent as a whole. It forms part of our commitment to delivering supply chain excellence and leading the way as an organisation in this space.”